blogs / writers

10 Things I Learned From My Blog

When I started this blog four years and 586 posts ago, I wasn’t sure where to take it. I knew I wanted to connect with other writers so I used that as the theme. Now, thanks to the 430,000+ people who have visited, I know much more about the ‘why’. Yes, it’s about getting to know kindred souls, but there is so much more I’ve gotten from blogging. Like these:

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Photo credit: Nemo

How to write

We bloggers divide ourselves into two categories: 1) those who write short, under-1000-word posts and 2) those who write in-depth, lengthy articles. I’ve chosen the former. I like pithy ideas that  readers can consume in the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee. As a result, I’ve learned to be frugal with my words. I choose verbiage that conveys more than one-words-worth of information and I leave tangential issues for another post. Because I realize readers are consuming on the run, I make sure to be clear–no misplaced pronouns or fuzzy concepts like ‘thing’ or ‘something’.

Prove my point

This part of writing transcends what print journalists and novel writers must do. Yes, they do it, but my readers expect me to support ideas with links to sources. If I’m reviewing a book, I can easily link to the author’s website for deeper reading. That’s something that can’t happen in paper writing. Sure, they can provide the link, but to put the paper down, open the laptop, copy that link–I mean, who does that? In a blog, I get annoyed if someone cites research and doesn’t provide the link.

What my voice was

I write thrillers. To pen a good thriller, you have to do what James Frey suggested in his exemplary guideline for thriller writers, including:

  1. Have no bland, colorless characters
  2. Have a hook at the end of each chapter
  3. Be fresh in your writing
  4. Keep the clock ticking and the excitement mounting

For me, that means keep my writing relevant and engaging with hooks that make readers come back for more. Literary fiction writers do it differently. My blog approach matches my novels.

How to work through the dry times

I rarely have writer’s block, but when I do, I jump into the blogosphere and see what my colleagues are writing. In my novel, I discovered that researching would water down the dry spells. The same thing works for blogging.

How to persevere

Three years of blogging and I’m still waiting to make it big. What’s that mean to me? I want that knock on my virtual door from Atlantic or USA Today asking me to come on board as a paid house blogger. Truth, that probably won’t happen and by now, I wouldn’t know what to do if I stopped personal blogging.

How to market my writing

I try lots of ideas to market my writing, but thanks to the blogosphere, I know what everyone else is doing. I can try as much or little of it as I want. For me, I found a comfortable baseline and add a few pieces every year (this year, it’s Pinterest).

One point worth mentioning is headlines. Usually, all you get from a reader is seven seconds–long enough to read the title, maybe the first line. If that title doesn’t seem personal and relevant, potential readers move on. There are over 450 million English language blogs. That’s a lot of competition. I better hit a home run with that title.

There are lots of opinions out there

Often, I share my thoughts on the pedagogy of writing. Sometimes, I’m surprised at comments I get. They might touch a corner of the idea I hadn’t thought of or be 180 degrees from my conclusions. It forces me to think bigger as I write, consider how people who aren’t me will read my words. That’s both humbling and empowering. I think I’m much better at that than I used to be.

There are a lot of smart people in the world

In a previous lifetime when I built child care centers for a living, I read lots of data that said people thought the education system was broken–but not in their area. They considered themselves lucky because their schools worked. Well, as I meandered through life, I realized that applies to everything. People are happy with what they’re comfortable with and frightened/suspicious of what they aren’t used to. Through blogging, I get to delve into those ideas with them because we feel like friends. I’ve found that lots of people are smart, intuitive, engaged in life, looking to improve the world. I’m glad I learned that.

How to be responsible

Yes, blogging is demanding. I have to follow through on promises made in my blog profile and posts. When I say I’ll offer writing advice weekly, I have to even if I’m tired or busy with other parts of my life. It’s not as hard as it sounded when I first started. If you’re a mom, you’ve got the mindset. Just apply it to blogging.

How to be a friend

My readers visit my posts and comment or poke me with a ‘like’. Maybe, on good days, they repost. Those are nice attaboys. I always return the favor by dropping by their blog to see what they’re up to, drop a line or two on their latest article. It takes time, but like any relationship, is worth it. I have online friends I’ve never met who I feel closer to than half the people in my physical world. I’ve seen them struggle with cancer, new jobs, unemployment, kid problems. I’ve learned a lot about life from them.

Thank you to my virtual friends who have taken time to get to know me–you know who you are.

What I haven’t learned is how to engender a conversation. I love reading blogs that have lots of comments, everyone weighing in. How the H**** do they do that? Can anyone tell me?


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, CSG Master Teacher, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersCisco guest blogger, Technology in Education featured blogger, and IMS tech expert. She is  the editor of a K-6 technology curriculumK-8 keyboard curriculumK-6 Digital Citizenship curriculum, creator of technology training books for middle school and ebooks on technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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17 thoughts on “10 Things I Learned From My Blog

  1. Hi Jacqui,
    What is “Have a hook at the end of each chapter”?
    Do you have somthing describing it?
    Thanks
    Robert

    • Hi Robert–the ‘hook’ is a one-liner that makes the reader continue to the next chapter. Where they might have been about to go to sleep for the night, now they want ‘just one more chapter’.

      A hook is ‘Then she heard a noise’, ‘Across town, a burglar alarm cried’,

      Does that help?

      • Yes, thank you. I thought it would be something like but, I wanted to be sure. You know I’m an “would be” English author, but English is not my mother tongue. Additionally I live in London. Of course, there are many expressions that have not crossed my vocabulary yet. Again, thank you. Regards, Robert

  2. I personally prefer to write and read short blog posts. I also like reading posts with lists – so much more direct without minimal fluff. Great post as usual. Thanks for sharing.

    • When I help friends with blogging, I always mention the two approachs–short and sweet, or long and involved. People fall on both sides of that. As you can see, I like pithy.

  3. I love your thoughts on what you’ve learned. I follow bogs in both categories, but find I appreciate the short ones most. Sometimes if I like the content in a 2000 word post, I’ll bookmark it to read later when I’m in a more studious mode and not just clicking blogs as a break between work projects.

    • I do that–the bookmarking thing. So often, I don’t get back to it. I now ‘skim’ those so I get the gist, bookmark, and then if/when I forget to return, no worries.

      Thanks for dropping by. Loved that interview with Dianne. All the right questions–I went over and bought the book!

      • Yes, I have forgotten to get back occasionally to bookmarks. Hope you enjoy Dianne’s book. I now want to get her 11th Question and see what that’s about since her favorite character she’s written is in that.

  4. I try to keep my blog posts as short as possible, Jacqui. I guess that’s because I’m so busy. If I go to one of my favourite bloggers pages and see they’ve written a long post (a chapter of their book for example) I’ll bookmark it and come back to it when I’ve got the time. In that sense I feel like everyone else is busy as well and they don’t really have the time to sit down and read a lot of my stuff.

    I’m also careful about the comments I make on posts. I try to avoid getting into religious or political discussions (at all costs!) I once commented on someone’s blog about being anti-guns and I’ll never do that again because I got slammed 8O

    I know you’ve asked before about how I get a lot of comments on my blog and I’m still trying to figure it out. The shorter the post the more comments I get. If I post quickly (every day) I get less comments. My post about getting charged and then being found innocent of Code of Conduct at the Tax Office got the greatest hits I’ve ever had in any post (even more hits than when I was FP’d) – and this was a ‘hidden’ post (a stand-alone page only accessible by clicking a link in an unrelated post). I don’t know how this happened, though it may have something to do with the tags I used (they are fairly important).

    Now that I’ve said all this, I’ve realised this comment is really long! LOL :D

    • I go the short post idea too. When I see one of those monstrously-long posts, I just skip it. But, your Code of Conduct post was different. It was fascinating–and appalling–from start to finish. …I really thought you must be in one of those groups where everyone comments on everyone else’s posts, so they all feel busy–but you’re not. You’re simply a fascinating writer.

      Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a new book I’m reading, by an up-and-coming author named Dianne Gray…

    • I post to Pinterest. I didn’t at first–didn’t see the purpose–but there was so much buzz about it, I set up an account and started posting. It is one of the biggest places that sends me hits. It’s usually right behind the search engines in volume. Amazing.

  5. Pingback: When the Well Runs Dry » My Name is Connor

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